Top 5 Social Media Trends for 2017

Kelli Knutsen

In 2016, there was no shortage of updates and developments in the social media industry. From novel features and platforms to new technologies and brand opportunities, the year proved that consumers are engaging with brands more easily than ever before.

Whilst it is difficult to predict exactly how the social media landscape will advance in 2017, we know that it will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. In order for brands to enhance their performance in the market, here are five social media trends they need to adapt to in 2017.

  1. Live Streaming: Authentic emotion builds brand loyalty

The past year has been revolutionary for live video; although Facebook Live launched in 2015, popularity around live streaming has only really amplified in the last year as the likes of Instagram have jumped on the bandwagon and Snapchat continues to show exponential growth.

“Though online video accounts for upwards of 50% of all mobile traffic, audiences want real-time content,” comments Wendy Tayler, Associate Director and Social Lead at FleishmanHillard South Africa. “Live streaming is a great way to connect with your community: it strikes an authentic and emotive chord that can help humanise your brand and build relationships – ultimately resulting in brand loyalty.”

With video fast becoming the most popular way of consuming online content, combining these two areas – authenticity and video – makes live streaming a no-brainer.

  1. Virtual Reality (VR) and Chatbots: Linear brand experiences aren’t enough

Adds Tayler: “2016 was the year of wider tech education, but 2017 will be the year of tech application.”

In 2017, virtual reality technology will become readily available to the public. A recent report by Research and Markets indicated that the commercial sector revenue from VR headsets, other VR equipment, VR content, and content creation tools will reach nearly $4.5 billion by 2020.

With Facebook’s acquisition of virtual reality audio company, Two Big Ears, the social platform is constantly evolving to create a new and unique environment. The platform’s video tools now allow users to upload 360-video clips, making it easier for users to tap into an experience.

“Linear experiences are no longer enough. Don’t tell or show me about your event, let me be there. Brands will need to evolve and adapt by integrating social media platform developments with virtual reality. The same sentiment applies to things like Chatbots. People want to be a part of the brand now, influencing what it does and how it shares,” she explains.

  1. Test and Experiment: Performance measurement is evolving

With the rapid adoption of new technology, it has become more obvious that vanity metrics will no longer suffice. As accessibility and popularity for new technologies increases, we have to consider new and meaningful metrics that make sense for them as unique content platforms.

“To bridge the gap between how we think campaigns are performing and what we actually know, performance measurement needs to be considered from an omni-channel perspective,” Tayler notes. “Failing to adopt new metrics of measurement will cause brands to miss opportunities. Embracing the notion of testing and experimentation will allow you to figure out what will and won’t work, and ultimately enhance performance growth. But you have to take the risk in order to do so. Things like virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence should be explored when the opportunity arises, and along with that comes new ways of measuring and defining success.”

  1. Watch and buy at once: The sales funnel is blurring

Brands are no longer segmenting their marketing efforts along traditional lines, and instead, have begun to blur the lines by overlapping and changing tactics to optimise performance.

Social platforms have begun to integrate direct sales elements within them, making the journey from the content to the purchase much shorter and creating less barriers to entry. Recently, YouTube became ‘shoppable’ by enabling advertisers to feed products into their videos, allowing consumers to purchase them there and then. Video, traditionally classified as an ‘above the line’ tactic, now also occupies the ‘below the line’ marketing tactic. The same now applies to online points of purchase – you don’t need to be directed to a website to be able to buy a product you’ve just seen.

“It is therefore vital that we optimise these spaces to ensure we are getting the most out of our audiences at the point of impact,” Tayler says.

  1. Native and search advertising: Multiple touch points are essential

We already know that the amount of content being produced makes it difficult for brands to stand out. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, so unless your brand is positioned in front of your audience in multiple environments, it’s simply not going to stick.

“In 2017, experts will see a growing trend in merging search and native advertising with their other marketing efforts in order to ensure that they are visible in more than just one place,” she says. “Every point of brand interaction can become a point of transaction.”